My cousin (katyhemfit.com) has gone vegan in the last year. Not mad militant vegan (at least, she hasn’t tried to bust my balls for the diet I have, and I saw her drinking wine without checking to see if it was rennet free first), but vegan none the less.
In my drive to get fit over the past couple of years, but particularly over the last six months, I have noticed several things. Firstly, my back ache is a distant memory. Secondly, my jeans are too baggy in the waist. Thirdly, I’ve got more stamina and strength than I’ve ever had. And fourthly, people ask me about my diet – and when I’m going to change it.
My diet! Jesus! My diet is sacred. I’m a food obsessive. I love food. I dream about food. And, whilst I certainly wouldn’t suggest that anyone else should enjoy eating what I eat (because I’m pretty much willing to try anything once), I do have some fairly strong views on the subject. Luckily, and thanks to plenty of exercise, I’m manage to shed weight whilst still eating whatever I want to.
To counter the ‘Clean Eating’ trend, my rules on eating are as follows – and, just to be clear, I am not a nutritionist.
Humanity. Meat comes from animals and animals feel pain but, as far as we are aware, plants don’t (although maybe they do – who knows?) In any event, and even if it does cost more, all meat and fish must be humanely raised and slaughtered. Battery farmed animals are not an option!
Waste and Respect. We raised it to eat it – so eat it. Don’t throw away food just because it isn’t muscle. It’s nearly all good. Offal, muscle, fat, bone, skin – it all has a use. And when you’ve finished the sunday joint, boil up the bones for soup. To do anything else is wasteful – and disrespectful.
Know Your Food. Whether animal or vegetable, know what you’re eating, and where it came from. Food isn’t made neatly shrink-wrapped in plastic (and, in fact, shouldn’t ever be wrapped in plastic). Know how to grow-your-own. Know how to butcher. Know how to make bread. If you know these things, and have tried to do them, then you may well be less inclined to throw food away in the future.
Environmental Impact. It’s worth noting that meat isn’t necessarily the environmental destroyer of worlds that it’s sometimes portrayed to be (by Cowspiracy for one). Ignoring the fact that Cowspiracy can’t tell the difference between 15% and 51% (whoops, I really didn’t ignore it there, did I?), it could be argued that meat is only massively inefficient if humans can eat grass. Of course, we can’t eat grass – so we need to compare the impact of meat against something that we can eat. Like lettuce for example – which may be three times more polluting to produce than bacon. It’s a fatuous comparison, of course, but no more fatuous than Cowspiracy. In fact, the best way to save the planet is to reduce our overall consumption (so don’t take more than you need), and don’t throw away left-overs (freeze them to enjoy later). And yes, don’t eat quite so much meat (which really isn’t the same thing as giving it up altogether).
Some vegetarian staples, like almond milk for example, are very, very bad for the environment indeed. Similarly, you should probably avoid palm oil containing products and cotton (I don’t – I’m just pointing out the contradiction).
Don’t make up allergies. Some people genuinely are very allergic to nuts, or have Coeliac Syndrome. They are in the minority. You probably don’t but, if you think you do, for god’s sake get it verified by a qualified doctor. Otherwise you’re just being fussy.
Eat a little bit of everything. Don’t ignore fats (you need them for insulation and for your brain, amongst other things). Don’t ignore complex carbohydrates (you need them to fuel your body). Don’t ignore protein (you need it to build your body). Don’t ignore calcium (for your bones), zinc (for your hair and nails), iron (for your blood). Don’t ignore vitamins. I think that you can, for the most part, ignore simple carbohydrates (like glucose, fructose and so forth) – except when you run out of fuel (during prolonged hard exercise, for example) and you need energy fast. I’m sure a nutritionist will correct me if I’m wrong.
Drink. A lot. I’m very bad at this one; I mean I do drink a lot – but it’s mostly tea when I should be drinking water. Remember that sometimes our bodies tell us that we’re hungry when what they really mean is that they’re thirsty. So if you’re trying to lose weight, try slugging water between meals.
What to Eat
Chillies. Chillies are a magic ingredient – even the most inedible food becomes perfectly palatable with the liberal addition of Napalm Sauce. Some will say that chillies are bad for you, others will say that they’re very healthy. For me, this comes down to ‘if you like it, eat it’. And I like them. A lot.
For fats, you can get them from milk, cheese, butter, oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty meats.
For complex carbohydrates, try grain cereals (including rice, wholemeal breads, spaghetti and so forth), potatoes, root vegetables like carrots and swede – basically anything that’s starchy or fibrous. If you want to be all trendy then yes, you can have quinoa (Keen-whar – blegh).
For protein, pretty much the same foods as give you fats will also give you a good dose of protein. You can also try eggs, lentils, peas, beans – and any meat or fish that you care to think of.
Calcium is abundant in milk and cheese, but I understand that it is best absorbed with fat – so skimmed milk might theoretically have the same amount of calcium as full-fat milk but it might not be so readily absorbed. Soy and broccoli are also calcium rich.
Unless your food has been artificially fortified, as many breakfast cereals are, zinc is best gained from shell fish and crustaceans like oysters, crab, lobster. Beef also contains zinc, but in lower quantities. Vegetarians will want to eat cashews and chick peas for zinc – but, since they’re less zinc rich and the zinc they contain is less readily absorbed, they’ll want to eat lots of them.
Iron rich foods include liver (lamb, beef, chicken – any liver), mussels, clams, lentils.
Vitamins are vital organic (in the chemistry sense) nutrients without which we’d be dead. Originally, they were all thought to be amino acids (hence VITal AMINo). They’re known by a friendly letter, just so that it doesn’t look too techy or indecipherable to non-scientists. Vitamin rich foods include:
What I Eat
As for what I have eaten in my culinary adventures, and excluding foods that are considered ‘normal’ in the United Kingdom, I have enjoyed (amongst other things)
Snake, Dog, Durian (hold your nose!), Wasps (pointless and powdery), grubs (meaty), locusts (delicious with sugar sprinkled on them), scorpions (see locusts), guinea pig (salty, quite nice), horse (beefy). I enjoy eating, and I’m quite capable of butchering, game, and I’m offally fond of hearts, livers and kidneys. Arf Arf.
There are some things that I am not prepared to eat again – Cheez Whiz, cheese squares, MacDonalds, Kipling anything and so forth. Not from a ‘clean eating’ perspective – just because I don’t like the taste.